Whatever Works: Where Product is King
Starting with the toe-straightener, the partners acquired and designed/manufactured some footcare products. The leader in the field was—and is—Dr. Scholl’s.
“The retail footcare business never really grew,” Brown says. “There’s no romance in footcare. It’s one of those necessary things.”
It’s the philosophy of Brown and his partners to find a niche—a line of useful, different products needed by everyone and that can be marketed with panache and flair. Could the partners go into the footcare business? They decided they could, if they developed a series of products that didn’t compete directly with Dr. Scholl’s—adjuncts that were more clever and had secondary usage. This included products such as orthotics, arch/heel supports, a Gel Donut heel pad, bottom-of-the-foot cushions and specialty insoles.
“I think we brought new life and pizazz to a tired segment,” says Brown. As a result, the ProFoot product line currently is second in revenue to Dr. Scholl’s and is sold by mass merchants, drug chains and pharmacies worldwide.
The Joy of Discovery
Brown loves dealing with products—the joy of discovering an unusual, useful item at a trade show, contracting for it with the vendor and going back to Brooklyn to create the catalog presentation.
Four years after the sale of Dr. Leonard’s, the partners discovered they missed the catalog business— with Brown missing it most of all. They knew what they were doing, and with their philosophy of low overhead and good margins, understood how to make a profit. At a hardware show in Chicago, they saw numerous exhibits of pesticides, cleaning products and outdoor merchandise. They decided this was a niche in which they could sell products that everyone needs—pest control, and problem solvers for homes and gardens.
Finding items that were different and that could be presented with humor and style was easy. Brown considers himself slightly off center—someone who looks at a cup of coffee and sees a Grecian urn. What’s more, few catalogs were in competition for this market. For example, New Pig specializes in the business-to-business arena.